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Vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert to give Humanists UK Franklin Lecture: ‘Racing against the virus’

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology and Oxford Project Leader for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, has been announced as the 2021 Rosalind Franklin Lecturer and medallist. The Rosalind Franklin Lecture is Humanists UK’s annual event marking International Women’s Day.  The lecture will take place on the evening of 5 March and is to be chaired by multi-award-winning journalist and broadcaster, Samira Ahmed.


At time of writing, more than 12 million British adults have received a first dose of a vaccine – no small number of those will be the one designed and created by Gilbert’s team. In her lecture, ‘Racing against the virus’, she will chart the incredible work that went into bringing about this life-saving vaccine – and why the race against the virus is not yet won.

First hosted by Humanists UK in 2016, the Rosalind Franklin Lecture has fully established itself as a key part of the Humanists UK calendar. The lecture is timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, and is named after Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering chemist who was so crucial to the discovery of the unique double helix structure of DNA.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘The innovative work of Sarah and her team has saved many lives and will yet save many more. She is not just a Rosalind Franklin medallist for these times of Covid-19 but, through her rigorous and life-changing research, represents the timeless ideals associated with one of British science’s great pioneers.’

Humanists UK is participating whole-heartedly in national efforts to support the vaccine roll-out and overcome fake news and so-called ‘vaccine hesitancy’. It recently released data which suggested that 95% of its members intended to take the vaccine when offered.

Tickets are £7, and you can get yours at


About Professor Sarah Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert is Professor of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM) at the University of Oxford. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of East Anglia and her doctoral degree at the University of Hull. Following four years as a research scientist at the biopharmaceutical company Delta Biotechnology she joined Oxford University in 1994 and became part of the Jenner Institute (within NDM) when it was founded in 2005. Her chief research interest is the development of viral-vectored vaccines that work by inducing strong and protective T and B cell responses.

She works on vaccines for many different emerging pathogens, including influenza, Nipah, MERS, Lassa, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, and SARS-CoV-2. Working with colleagues in the Jenner Institute research labs, the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility and Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, all situated on the Old Road Campus in Oxford, she is able to take novel vaccines from design to clinical development, with a particular interest in the rapid transfer of vaccines into manufacturing and first in human trials. She is the Oxford Project Leader for ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, a promising vaccine against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which received approval for use in the UK in late 2020.

About Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is a multi-award winning journalist and broadcaster with a special focus on culture, politics, and social change. She won Audio Broadcaster of the Year at the 2020 British Press Guild Awards for her work as a presenter of Front Row on Radio 4 and her podcast How I Found My Voice.

About the Rosalind Franklin Lecture

Marking International Women’s Day, the Rosalind Franklin Lecture explores and celebrates the contribution of women towards the promotion and advancement of aspects of humanism in the UK and around the world. The Rosalind Franklin medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named after Rosalind Franklin, humanist and scientist, whose contribution to science for many years went unacknowledged on account of her sex but who is today rightly celebrated.

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